2021 GMC Yukon Denali Full Detailed Review

  • New independent rear suspension benefits ride and cargo capacity
  • Longer wheelbase increases passenger comfort
  • Redesigned interior is substantial improvement over the outgoing model
  • Newly available diesel-powered engine

The Yukon is one of the few truck-based SUVs still around. But being truck-based can’t be an excuse for being behind the times. The previous-generation Yukon offered plenty of towing capacity but came up short in refinement, versatility and features. This year’s redesigned 2021 Yukon looks to have addressed many of those shortcomings.

A GMC design brief could have very well read “bigger is better” because the new Yukon is 6.1 inches longer than its predecessor. That’s opened up more legroom for rear passengers — three 6-foot-tall passengers can sit in tandem without feeling cramped. The increase in length also benefits cargo space. Fold down the second- and third-row seats and you’ve got a pretty massive 122.9 cubic feet at your disposal. A lower load floor helps make loading big items easier than last year too.

The Yukon also gets an independent rear suspension for the first time. Compared to the old Yukon, which had a traditional solid-axle rear suspension, the new Tahoe rides much more smoothly over bumps and around turns. GMC is also offering an air-ride suspension system that provides 4 inches of ride-height adjustment. It also allows you to switch the Yukon from a low, easier passenger-access mode to an off-road mode that adds 2 inches of ground clearance over the standard ride height.

Our experience in a top-trim Denali tester colors us impressed. The Yukon still feels like the big truck that it is from behind the wheel, but everything about its character feels more refined than the previous model. Our tester’s adaptive air suspension glides over all but the roughest road textures, with none of the rear jitters we’ve come to expect of body-on-frame SUVs. It also gives the Yukon surprising handling characteristics. Nobody will confuse it with a Porsche Cayenne or even a Mercedes-Benz GLS, but the Yukon doesn’t trip over itself when confronted with a set of switchbacks. We should mention that the Denali comes with a uniquely styled center area, complete with a large touchscreen integrated with the dashboard (lower trims have a floating touchscreen), along with upscale cabin trim and a throaty, powerful 6.2-liter V8.

Overall, a more car-like three-row crossover SUV such as the Kia Telluride will be easier to drive and get you better fuel economy. But all of these upgrades add up to a large SUV that is without a doubt fully competitive with the excellent Ford Expedition, along with other rugged SUV stalwarts such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Toyota Sequoia.